A shared vision for sustainable regional land use in the Galloway and Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere
Metzger, Marc J.
Climate change, biodiversity loss and evolving societal demands emphasise the need to manage our landscapes differently. But conflicting interests and views make it difficult to agree where and how change should take place. UNESCO Biospheres are internationally recognised regions committed to piloting different approaches to addressing these demands. Researchers from The University of Edinburgh and Forest Research facilitated a collaborative process with a diverse group of twenty-seven stakeholders in the Biosphere to understand common ground for a future land use vision and explore where change could help achieve the vision. The research identified a shared vision for sustainable regional land use in the Biosphere. The vision combines social, economic, and environmental aspirations for a varied, mixed and integrated living and working landscape that provides an excellent place to live and work with a strong identity and a respected and celebrated natural and cultural heritage. The vision narrative was used to develop spatial criteria to identify where changes in land use or land management should be considered to achieve the vision, such as diversifying agriculture and forestry, restoring peatlands and improving habitats and biodiversity. Despite broad agreement about the types of changes required, and the landscape functions and benefits land in the Biosphere should provide in the future, attempts to discuss specific land use changes at more local scales were difficult. The challenge is now to develop processes that bring together local stakeholders to understand different perspectives and find ways to identify benefits and negotiate trade-offs that are acceptable to a broad group of people.